So maybe the “optics” are unfortunate, but the Kansas City, Kan., school board ought to be applauded for investing in its students.
That’s right, spending $48,000 for a grand piano is absolutely the right thing to do for the students at Sumner Academy. As the high-achieving high school with a longtime focus on the arts, Sumner and its leaders are suggesting that music is important in the lives and education of their students.
Replacing a worn-out instrument that has served, for better or worse, for decades is part of the cost of doing education. It’s not a luxury item to be deleted because Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback and state legislators have ravaged funding for schools.
And, as one state legislator has noted, it’s really a capital expense, a piece of equipment expected to be used daily and to last 20 or 30 years or more.
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To think of a $48,000 concert piano as a “Cadillac,” as some critics have characterized it, is to ignore the reality of quality musical instruments.
Imagine the outrage if state legislators started wondering about the cost of gymnasiums and football pads.
But going after pianos is easy, because Brownback and his conservative allies in the statehouse have already proved their lack of interest in the arts. It’s part of an anti-intellectual movement causing pressure throughout the ranks of education. And it’s indicative of a crucial misunderstanding of what arts education contributes to the lives of our children and to the state of our culture.
But aside from the philosophical arguments, to raise eyebrows over a piano — a bedrock instrument of classical music, of Kansas City jazz, of pop and rock music — is to get lost in the rhetoric of Kansas school funding. And school funding everywhere.
Just listen to Rep. Steve Huebert, of Valley Center, Kan.: “I would find it kind of hard to believe you could justify spending that kind of money that’s supposed to be going to educate our children at a time when supposedly they’ve been cut to the bone.”
And he’s a member of the House Education Budget Committee.
A school piano is all about educating children. What does Huebert think is going to happen with it?
Now playing: another budget scapegoat that’s badly out of tune with the real world of education and the future of the state’s children.